Tom Moore, the cartoonist behind the Archie comic book series, passed away in El Paso this week. He’d drawn the Riverdale High gang: Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead, off and on from 1953 until he retired in the late 1980s.
One might think about iconic comic book characters like Batman or Superman, but Archie Comics have also made an indelible mark on pop culture.
Bart Beaty, is a professor of English at the University of Calgary and author of “Twelve-Cent Archie” – a book billed as “the first scholarly study of the Archie comic.” He stopped by the Standard to talk about the cultural significance of Archie and the gang.
On how Archie has stayed popular for so long and yet at the same time forgotten:
“Archie is one of those comics that has a particular audience which is young children, usually about 8-12 or 13, maybe more girls than boys. And it’s seen as a comic by comic book fans that you grow out of….We grow up and we go on to Spider-Man, Superman, more mature, exotic comics. It’s the type of thing that doesn’t get revisited often by a lot of adults….They’re frivolous, they’re meant to be read and thrown away – and not remembered in any significant matter.”
On the impact and legacy of Tom Moore:
“He is actually a really important Archie creator insofar as, the character was introduced in the early 1940s, by Bob Montana – and Montana himself was only a few years older than the characters he was writing about – he was 19 when he drew the first Archie comic…It was Tom Moore and others who came along and really defined the character. If you look at the Archie comics of the 1940s, some of them are being reprinted now, they don’t really look like the Archie that everybody has in their mind’s eye right now. Moore and [others] of that period really solidified things with the green bow tie and the black sweater vest with the ‘R’ and the freckles and the red hair. The iconic look of Archie was really created by an artist like Tom Moore and that has endured now for almost 75 years.”
Betty or Veronica?
“I sat down and read 950 Archie comics from the 1960s to write this book. And what I learned is that Betty Cooper is actually a little bit off. She has some stalker-ish tendencies. She’s kind of unhinged when it comes to Archie and she doesn’t play fair. She likes everyone to think that she’s the nice girl-next-door, but she will go kind of crazy and over the top. To me, she is the one that I think Archie should stay away from. I think he’s better off with Veronica. I know that’s an unpopular thing to say for a lot of people but I’m much more a Veronica person in that triangle.”